SOUTH-WEST dairy farmers were left unimpressed this week with the rhetoric of federal opposition agriculture spokesman John Cobb on how a Liberal government would help them out of their present financial crisis.
At a dairy industry community forum in Warrnambool on Thursday night attended by about 200 people, Mr Cobb offered lots of sympathy but few promises of immediate help to dairy farmers who were in serious financial difficulty.
“If we take government in eight months’ time, we will not have a lot of money to throw around,” Mr Cobb said. “Until we fix up the finances of the country, we cannot help anyone.”
The forum was jointly convened by member for Wannon Dan Tehan, the dairy farmer activist group Farmer Power and the Warrnambool branch of the United Dairyfarmers of Victoria (UDV).
After the forum, Farmer Power spokesman Jock O’Keefe said both Mr Cobb and the UDV had presented no hope of any help for dairy farmers in the short-term.
At the forum, Mr Cobb gave no support to calls by some in the audience for the re-regulation of the dairy industry, saying no government would contemplate such a move until the entire dairy industry supported it.
Dairy farmer Lou Wyss, of Camperdown, was among those calling for re-regulation, saying a levy on drinking milk should be imposed similar to what had been done to fund the costs of deregulating the industry.
Mr Wyss said a levy of about 11 cents a litre on drinking milk could lift the farm gate milk price by about four cents a litre.
Mr Cobb said any assistance to dairy farmers would have to come from the dairy industry and would not come from a Liberal government.
On the calls by those at the meeting for Australia to end its free trade approach and stop imported dairy products from taking market share from Australian-made products, Mr Cobb was also non-committal.
Des McKinnon, of Terang, said world trade was corrupted by subsidies and the level playing field advocated by the Liberals “was the greatest lot of hogwash”.
“We need a flat or guaranteed milk price,” Mr McKinnon said. However, Mr Cobb steered away from measures that might impede Australia’s exports.